Saturday, December 20, 2008
Be warm, safe and happy, with your friends and family. Enjoy the holidays, and best wishes for 2009 when FBC! returns. I wish you all luck and good health and happiness, and for myself... a job in Los Angeles.
I found the picture above here.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It's Thursday, and there's another MOCA Board meeting today, which Eli Broad will attend. As I've said all along - I'm putting this sentence here because you're apparently not a blogger if you don't hammer the fact that you wrote the exact same thing a week ago, and you're fabulously right. Bloggers have to be priggish and condescending, in case we'd be mistaken for real journalists who have to dabble in more facts than opinions - anyway, as I've said before, methinks Broad is the best option, and so does Broad apparently, if we believe what Christopher Knight writes today in the LAT "Culture Monster" blog. I'd suggest you guys read it rather than the opinions of agitated bloggers, including my own sweet self, because Knight is better informed, and he's paid to follow the story, which my Frenchy self isn't.
There's been an uproar against the proposed LACMA merger, with bloggers left and right thinking LACMA only interest is in grabbing MOCA's collection and leading the museum on a leash. As an aside, there's been a very funny exchange between Brady Westwater and Rosette Delug (MOCA Trustee) on their respective "walls" on Facebook. I doubt both read FBC!, but, hem, if someone knows Delug, please let her know it's possible to adjust her privacy settings on FB. (Just sayin'). Still on Facebook the MOCA Mobilization group has been rather quiet, maybe because their initial goal of getting 10,000 signatures on their petition, downgraded to 5,000, hasn't been met.
What no ones seems to have considered about the LACMA official proposal, because my esteemed blogger-colleagues apparently don't really know how museums are run from the inside, is that this famous proposal may have been designed by LACMA precisely to look like an unacceptable solution to push the MOCA Board to accept Eli Broad's proposal instead. Because, you see, it isn't in LACMA's best interest to merge with MOCA and suddenly find itself morphing from an encyclopedic museum to a bloated contemporary art operator with 3 geographically distinct facilities, and now dwarfed collections of classical or non-Western art left behind to be, what? Rejuvenated by contemporary artists? After a while it starts to be stale, you know. In addition, LACMA cannot afford the expenses of adding staff (in case you wondered: only a tiny fraction of LACMA's staff is paid by the County), maintaining more facilities when their own trustees cannot find the will to upgrade conservation and storage, etc.
In short t is no more desirable for LACMA to merge with MOCA than it is for MOCA to be chained to LACMA. But LACMA had been approached, they had to make a formal move toward the MOCA Board, and they came up with whatever would be possible conceptually for LACMA in case they had no other choice as well but merge to keep MOCA's collection in Los Angeles.
And for Tyler Green who was up in arms about the fact that the proposal seemed like a swipe at Jeremy Strick during embattled times: a) having two directors leading one merged institution seems impracticable if not ludicrous and b) I cannot imagine a Board accepting a merger while keeping a leadership that has proven ineffective, and c) Christopher Knight yesterday called for Jeremy's resignation as well, and I'm sure Knight likes Jeremy as well as the next person.
Knight finally said what everybody in Los Angeles knows: Jeremy is the nicest guy ever, and everybody likes him, but he grandiosely failed at leading the museum in a responsible fiscal manner. While drawing a salary that's a little bit inflated in comparison to MOCA's deficit. I personally think Jeremy should stay on until the museum is out of the woods, that is, if it accepts Broad's proposal, if only because there's no one else to act at the time being.
And finally, I'm going to play the blogger/journalist game of "this is what you people should do, look how I'm right at virtually managing museums from my laptop": Not only the MOCA Board should be well inspired to accept Broad's proposal and to ask for Jeremy's resignation, as well as renew itself with more competent members, but when it finally finds the magic person who's going to direct this museum, it should hire a real manager as well. No, not the mythical "art person who's a beloved fundraiser who can also run the day-to-day operations while being fiscally conservative". What MOCA, like every museum needs, is one Director who's in charge of the program, etc AND a second person who's doing all the boring legwork and accepts the unrewarding position of being an able administrator. Look at LACMA: without Melody Kanschat, Michael Govan would have much more trouble running the museum as it is. And when MOCA has found this magic team, the next director should be very well inspired to rethink what MOCA's position is in a city where the museum landscape is already littered with contemporary art institutions, how to stand out locally as well as internationally.
Anyway, this is my last post about it, I'm really sick of the saga. And no "Your Social Life" today as well. I'm sure you can manage without me.
Picture of Captain Obvious found here.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Basically what it's saying is, if you guys have to declare bankruptcy, we'll make sure you fab' collection stays in LA, we'll help you run your day-to-day operations, while maintaining the pretense of independence for your institution.
I can see many reasons why this wouldn't work (deciding which exhibition gets staged where, dealing with an over-inflated curatorial team in the Contemporary Art Dept. as well as the cultural shock for MOCA staff when dealing with LACMA's bureaucracy. As well as the impracticality for LACMA of running a satellite operation with 2 distant buildings, and how it would tilt its operating budget away from the "encyclopedic" premises the museum has been founded upon.
Nevertheless, given how MOCA's Board has run itself so far, they may choose it. I still think they'd be better inspired by accepting Eli Broad's offer, but we can now only wait and see... Stay tuned, and let's cross fingers!
UPDATE: there's no update, except that Michael Govan (hi Michael!) expands a tiny bit (not really) on the merger proposal, and that at almost 6PM tonight there is no leak yet or press release about MOCA's Board meeting. No doubt we'll know more later (this is the emptiest filler I've ever written, how more obvious a sentence can be, tell me?). Meanwhile, the LACMA offer looks more like a PR move than anything else, so far. They've been approached, they had to say something about it, so they adopted the stance that would offer as much help as they can, within their means. Whichever way you look, they could only do so: if they refuse the merger they appear like cold-hearted selfish beasts, and if they swallow MOCA they seem greedy and opportunistic. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.
In any case, we'll see.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
There's plenty of things to do this weekend in Los Angeles, despite the rain and the cold that are coming, but I'm not into going out at all, so I'll provide you with the short edition. I'm sure you can do a bit of legwork yourself if you deem FBC!'s list insufficient for your voracious social cravings.
Your weekend starts tonight with two concurrent events, the 7 PM Holiday Party and Live Auction at LAXart where, if you have a bit of money, you can bid on some fabulous Christmas or Hanukkah presents AND support a space that's as vital to Los Angeles as MOCA. The tickets cost $50 which isn't that much for this type of event, but probably a bit too much for unemployed nerds like me. But if I had money to spend I'd be there.
The second event tonight is at REDCAT where you can see a bunch of worthy art historians, curators and artist to present a "significant image" (of their own choosing) for one minute, an idea appropriated by Micol Hebron from Agnès Varda. I'm not among the worthies, so I won't show up, obviously. As a performance event it may be interesting, nevertheless as an art historian I just think the concept demonstrates perfectly how today most people are unable to spend MORE than one minute in front of an image to look at it, and say something meaningful about it. Some of the worthies tonight are friends of mine, so please buddies don't take this personally, I just think it proves how the contemporary culture is unable to consider pictures on a deep level if one has been stuffed with too much theory, and done too little looking.
Ask the very same people to spend 1 hour each in front of the same choice they decided upon, and make it a 40-hour long series of events as a follow-up, and now I'd be interested (though I'd add as a rule people should be barred from dwelling on the personal). It costs $12, if you feel like participating in it. Personally if I were a Deus Ex-Machina I'd put all the participants on stage and would ask them to spend that hour I was speaking about being eloquent about, oh, I don't know, one of Stella's Black Paintings, or a minor 18th century Dutch landscape, or just one of those Shepard Fairey propaganda posters (without a slogan, otherwise it's too easy). I think we'd get a really interesting result. If you're still up after (or before) the 1 minute per image event, you can stay downtown and join the regular Downtown Art Walk. Since you will be walking you can get yourself a drink as well.
OK, so by Saturday you should feel like forgetting about all these images worth only one minute of important art people's time, so why not go and attend the closing of Morgan Fisher exhibition at China Art Objects? You will be able to watch his work at your leisure, and hang out with Morgan who's the coolest post-structuralist filmmaker, as they say in art schools, as well as being simply a very good artist.
Before heading over to Chinatown, you can spend your lunch hour at the Pacific Design Center outpost of beleaguered MOCA and attend the Lari Pittman and Catherine Opie book signing. Hurry, while we still have MOCA in Los Angeles! Go to the bottom of the page I'm linking to for complete information about time, location, etc.
On Sunday it will be raining, so instead of doing Christmas shopping, I'd say why don't you go visit and support your local museums? LACMA, MOCA, the Hammer, SMMOA, the Norton Simon, the Getty... plenty of places to go to, and if really you do freak out about buying presents, head over to their bookstores and buy art catalogues to your loved ones. Much better and more durable than ugly sweaters, and better for your weight management than boxes of cookies.
The picture above, Maya Schindler, Who Wants To Be A MIllionaire (white), 2008, Paint on mylar, features in tonight auction at LAXart, so if you feel like offering me a present for Christmas you know where to look for. I pinched the pic from LAXart website.
Monday, December 8, 2008
We've read a lot about MOCA over the last few weeks. Now something my art readers here in Los Angeles may not have noticed is how incredibly bad out local paper has become, thanks to the incompetence of a zillionnaire Chicagoan who cultivates an unfortunate resemblance with a giant garden gnome, Sam Zell. Remember when Ron Burkle with Eli Broad (who wanted to run the paper as a non-profit foundation) and David Geffen were competing to buy the Los Angeles Times? They didn't succeed, and instead Uncle Scrooge grabbed our newspaper. Now, about a year later, a good hundred layoffs later, our paper gutted out of its substance, Uncle Scrooge is filling for bankruptcy.
If LA art lovers cannot imagine a town without MOCA, try to imagine it without the LA Times. I have no idea what's gonna happen to it, and if as usual everybody is going to ask Eli Broad to the rescue. If it happens, he will inherit a newspaper whose very blood has been drained, where good journalists have been replaced by bloggers, and where we have to endure the unbearable stupidity and condescension of columnist Jonah Goldberg and Joel Stein.
I remember when the LAT was a good paper, much more progressive than the NYT. It was weak on covering culture and the arts, but was really good on the environment, and was kindly inclined toward the poor. Now we're left with a lightweight paper, an impossible to search website and a gazillions poorly written blogs about real estate porn and doggie bling, thanks to Sam Zell and his incredible foresight. Now, Mr. Zell, please stop being stupid and resell our beautiful LAT to Broad or Geffen or whatever billionaire who lives here wants to buy it, and go manage your Cubs, OK? You'll do us a favor.
I found the picture here.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Since we're looking at gorgeous would-be Christmas presents, I suggest for those of you in Ireland (or outside Ireland) to have a look at Niamh O'Malley "Torch", a to-die-for but impossible-to-take-a-good-jpeg-of exhibition catalog for a show she had in April 2008 at Temple Bar Gallery & Studio in Dublin. I don't really know how you can find it outside of here so here's the ISBN: 978-1-903895-99-3.
There's a beautiful essay by Brian Dillon of Cabinet fame, and the pictures inside the book are beautiful. Unfortunately the cover is printed on glossy black paper, and my tiny digital camera as well as my sub-par photography skills prevent me from doing it justice in the pictures above. Trust me, it is an art catalog you want to have, and it's the size of a paperback. It will look very elegant on your coffee table, and you will learn a lot about blind spots and the history of their discovery. In passing, Brian Dillon's essay is also very good because it does something most contemporary art critics neglect to do: it describes the pieces, and with such clarity you can figure out easily how the art must looks like. What it cannot do is make us feel how it is to watch the projections and video described, so if you find yourself in the vicinity of an art space where O'Malley's art is exhibited, do go see it.
FBC! got a great present in the mail yesterday, in advance of Christmas: Petra Mrzyk and Jean-François Moriceau's 2009 Ephéméride, a daily calendar where every day is illustrated by a drawing. It's gorgeous, and you should consider it an artist book. Here are a few pics. One caveat: the glue is very strong, so separate each leaf very carefully or you risk damaging some of the drawings. It's an inexpensive daily calendar, but since it's an art edition, be careful with the paper cutter! If you can't afford it, you can see the drawings here, and if you're in Paris before January 10 you can go see them in person at the gallery Air de Paris (the picture of the gallery is lifted from their website) and maybe buy one real drawing (only in the 3 figures, if you're asking) while you're at it.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Yeepee! Like the art market next year, after everybody realizes how bad the recession is, here in Los Angeles today we are now between ourselves. Unlike my chic Frenchy self, and you, my classy readers, many artsy-fartsy mindfucks are now vulgarly displaying their wanton greed and lack of class by pretending to shop (but really are partying at art dealer's expenses) in Miami Beach. For the small minority of my non-art readers, this time of the year is when the art world congregates to Miami because a shitload of art fairs are taking place there.
So many it's hard to keep count and recognize what's what (there's Art Basel Miami Beach, the one and only, Nada, Pulse, Scope, etc, etc) so basically every segment of the art market is there. Some of these people will no doubt discuss the current MOCA troubles, in between hard bargaining for discounts, numerous nasal trips to the restrooms, and for the already broke ones, booze and schmoozing and schmooze and boozing.
We in Los Angeles are not vulgar enough, we're more inclined to intellectual and cultural pursuits, as I said. Now is the time to go see all the shows you haven't seen in LA yet (yay!) and frequent a few openings and benefits (I didn't say "openings with benefits", as I have no control over your salacious minds.)
OK, so what's there to do? Saturday you will have to drive between Pasadena, Hollywood and West Adams.
In Pasadena there's Techno Eyes For The Brewery Finale @ The Armory, at the Armory then as I'm sure you have gathered, with several FBC! pals: April Durham, Will Fowler and Pam Strugar, as well as Linda Parnell and Jill Poyourow, from 6 to 9 PM.
In Hollywood C4 Gallery has an opening with someone who is an old pal as well, and a very good photographer, Matthew Betcher, and Frank Poole who I do not know, but will discover on Sat. It's from 6 to 11 PM, and if you look at the jpeg invite above it gives you tricks about parking in Hollywood on a Sat. evening (can't they move the clubbing to the Valley or Orange County for God's sake? )
And in West Adams is the benefit for Les Figues Press, from 7 to 11PM. Suggested donation is $15-$25, a trifle to support literature, don't you think?
Before you do all this, you can also spend the afternoon in Chinatown and catch up on the Darren Almond show at Dave Patton.
Sunday, goodness gracious, what can you do on Sunday while your moneyed friends in Miami are trying to nurse their hangover? You can cultivate and elevate your mind in Pasadena while attending the 3 PM discussion about Duchamp at the Norton Simon, between Simon Leung and George Baker. FBC! has written one of her master theses on "Original and facsimiles in contemporary museography: Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass and Readymades" under Thierry de Duve (sometimes, I feel the need to brag, sorry) so I'll try to attend if I can.
Speaking of lectures and Duchampian scholars, de Duve I believe is in residence at the GRI at present so hopefully he and you will attend Ken Gonzalez-Day's Tuesday 3.30 PM lecture "Of the Love of Mankind - and other “Failed” Systems"at the Getty Museum's Lecture Hall. It's not on the Getty website, so I think it's one of the "closed" events for which you have to RSVP: 310 440 7438 or email: SSchlosser AT getty DOT edu
And I'll announce it again next week, but don't forget LAXart holiday party and live auction, next Thursday.
Have fun out of Miami! You can join us at the Faceboog group here.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
MOCA Drama: Eli Broad Repeats Exactly What He Had Previously Written In The LAT Because People In LA Cannot Read
Wow, this must be the longest title I've ever written on FBC! If you dig through the archives and found one that's longer, you're entitled to take me out for coffee (hey, I'm unemployed!) and I'll tell you how Eli is in real life. Hint: he's taller than me. And he sometimes wear neckties which aren't red.
Anyway, the agitation about the current MOCA drama has been going on for a few days now, mainly on Facebook and on various blogs. Lot's of jumping all over the place and running around, petitions, letters to be written to your County people in charge, blah blah blah. The FB group organizers were disappointed this weekend because their petition hadn't reached 10, 000 signees, er, may I remind you it was a holiday? People were traveling and indigesting?
If I were not in such a crappy mood today I'd wax all ironical about the discussions on the FB group, of some threads being swallowed in the great cyberspace nothingness on account of "profanity and stupidity" (come on, you people, we're all grown-ups, we can endure these), etc.
There are a gazillion bloggers (hello Frenchy!) posting their own remedies and grandiose plans for the future, sometimes in a somewhat self-aggrandizing manner, but which are all moot anyway because the Board of Trustees is meeting in less than 2 weeks, and Eli Broad just re-explained to Culture Monster what his offer is. It's very generous, there are no strings attached, yes he'd expect some matching funds but not right now this very minute, and he's not even asking for Jeremy's head or the Board of Trustees to go renew itself in a more efficient way (on another hand, maybe he should show the same spirit toward LAUSD).
I say, please let Eli Broad play Santa. We all need a bit of a Christmas spirit, life sucks for too many people presently to pass this over. Meanwhile, if people on the FB group read this, next time, before you jump to conclusions, please spend the time to read what Broad had written in the first place, it was all spelled out in the clearest manner ever. Not his fault if the LAT ninnies put the wrong headline over his op-ed/letter.
PS: there are various reasons why I put up this LolCat pic here, use your brain to find them, the most original response will also get to take me out to coffee and be told gossip about your favorite museum director or curator, as long is one I know personally. Otherwise I cannot tell you what type of underwear they favor.
Monday, December 1, 2008
That's right, if you're like me you're a bit sick of all the MOCA drama, of everybody blogging his/her solutions and wondering why why why nothing happened yet? Duh, it was Thanksgiving weekend, do you expect MOCA Trustees to reach a decision at a pre-holiday brainstorming bash?
Anyway, since it's holiday season and there hasn't been any foodie-related thing posted here, I thought I should divert your worried ruminations with a festive tart recipe that was very successful last Thursday. I've also made 4 quarts of turkey stock but it doesn't look too good in pictures, so here's the tart instead.
Basic Tart Dough:
250g white flour (I use King Arthur)
30g confectioner's sugar
1 pinch of salt
35cl creme fraiche (about 2 tubs Trader Joe's creme fraiche)
1 generous dash of rum
1) mix the flour with the soft (room temperature) butter cut in small pieces, mix well until it looks sandy, ,add sugar and salt, stir well, add the egg, mix well, roll the dough into a ball, put in plastic wrap int he fridge for about 1 hour
(NB: you can mix all ingredients in a stand mixer as well, but I don't have one).
Preheat oven at 400F.
Roll out the dough, spread it in a buttered and floured pan (I use a quiche dish), pick the dough with a fork in several places, and pre-cook the dough int he oven for 20 minutes. Usually recipes recommend you spread dried beans over wax paper on the tart dough to avoid shrinking and air bubbles, but I basically fit a second, smaller metallic tart pan over the dough and it works wonders.
Heat the creme fraiche in a pot. It's OK if it boils, it won't turn sour, but it's not necessary. In another tall pot, make a caramel by heating the sugar with 2 tablespoons water. The caramel is ready for the second stage when it becomes a nice light brown color and is bubbly rather than frothy. Take it out of the burner (I put it down in my sink) and add the heated creme fraiche. WATCH OUT it's very, very hot. Wait for the projections to subside so you can mix the creme fraiche more thoroughly with the caramel. Put the caramel melange back on the stove, stir with your wooden spoon, when the caramel makes big bubbles, take it out of the stove, wait a minute or two, add the rum and the vanilla, stir well. Throw the walnuts into the caramel, stir well so each walnut is entirely coated with caramel. Normally you obtain a large mass of walnut and caramel, and a bit of liquid caramel stays at the bottom of the pan.
Pour the walnut/caramel mixture on the pre-baked tart dough, level the top with a spatula. Try to tilt the tart mold sideways a couple of time so the liquid caramel stays equally level. Put everything back in the oven for 10 minutes, still at 400F.
Let the tart cool off to before eating it. Rather than add more sweetness to it, if you absolutely feel like having some dairy when eating it I'd suggest you do so with a dollop of creme fraiche, rather than whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy, and stop thinking about MOCA for a few minutes, OK?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
OK, full disclosure, FBC! generally doesn't believe in petitions, and doesn't sign them as a general principle. Rules are made to be broken, so my signature graces the petition to "save MOCA", which you can find here. So if you care about the museum, you can sign it and pass the url to your friends. I must say I'm a bit irritated my full mailing address was required to sign it, as I had no time and no imagination to make up a fake one.
Now this being said, feel free to make as much noise as possible to help the museum, and after it's saved thanks to Eli Broad, to many more generous donors to come and to viewers like you, please ask for accountability. I love MOCA, I love many of the exhibitions it has organized, I like all its curators, it has a great collection, but it needs better management, and that includes administrators as well as the Board of Trustees. You know, people who try to improve the financial situation of the institution way before it drowns in a dire, dire quagmire of near-bankruptcy. The 11th-hour cry for help, the waiting for the museum to be in desperate straits to finally, finally make the situation known, I find it intolerably nerve-wracking.
Meanwhile, sign the petition, make your voice heard, and support your local museums. All of them.
And you thought MOCA was in trouble. Well, research Belgium a bit, and the whole MOCA situation will start looking like a piece of cake.
If you've been a follower of FBC! for a while you know how I like Belgium. I've even made my coming out on Facebook as a (former) closet Belgian. Belgians are usually warm and friendly people with a wicked sense of humor, and they sure know how to drink and to party.
You just wished they would get along better, in between the Walloons, the Flemish and the German-speaking minority (they do have the other usual minorities as well, in case you wonder).
Aside from the linguistic tricky problem, Belgium had produced great bands, great filmmakers (Chantal Akerman anyone?), one world-famous art historian (Thierry de Duve), cycling racers that put Lance Armstrong to shame ( a real cyclist does the Giro, La Vuelta, and the Tour de France, and let's not forget Paris-Roubaix), and of course Magritte and Broodthaers. For a country that's about the size of Maryland, it's a pretty good record, no?
So now that I whetted your appetite for all things Belgian, I recommend you go tonight to the Mandrake Bar watch a selection of Belgian videos, from 7 to 11 PM. It will be raining like crazy outside, so it's a good reason to go have a few drinks while getting culturally enlightened.
Imagine the fabulous conversation you will have at the Thanksgiving table! First explaining to Uncle Chester there is a country called Belgium somewhere (hint: it's in between France, the Netherlands and Germany) where, contrarily to what you'd expect they don't speak Belgian, then telling Grandma Edna you were watching videos by the likes of David Evrard at the Mandrake (that's when you have to tell your bachelor great-uncle Mo you're not speaking about Mandrake The Magician) ... then you get to explain the videos you've seen, and voilà! Your entire Thanksgiving conversation taken care of! Merci qui? Merci Frenchy!
Pic of Mandrake the magician taken here.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Because there are other things in life than the MOCA crisis (more about this to come), and because FBC! knows that physical exercise is a good antidote to sadness, I joined the Great Los Angeles Walk organized by the folks over at Franklin Avenue. The group of 150 people who met at Union Station between 8 and 9 AM on Saturday morning was slated to walk up Cesar Chavez, Sunset Boulevard and then Santa Monica Boulevard all the way to the ocean.
I took the #33 bus at 7.15 AM at the corner of Venice and Vineyard, opposite World on Wheels and Midtown Lane, and was swiftly taken through a nice tour of downtown all the way to Union Station. I saw some nice architecture on the way, so hey, Mike over at Franklin Avenue! You could do Venice next year? I'd even settle for Washington. I could maybe even cheat a join the walk halfway through...
Being totally out of shape I knew I wouldn't make it till the end, so my more modest goal was to end somewhere between La Brea an Fairfax and then take a couple buses back home.
It was loads of fun! I love walking or taking the bus in Los Angeles and see the architecture, the people, street life and I got to meet some friendly people.
Many of the Saturday walkers work in the entertainment industry, so it was nice to be outside of the art world for a little while. Among the crowd were some serious hikers, all clad in professional gear, some totally out of shape people like me, some marathoners who in fact carried very little, and even a guy who wore PJs bottoms to the walk. I met "Walter" who had walked down Western all the way to San Pedro (it took him 2 days!) and Eric Lynxwiler who wrote a book about Whilshire, which I'm gonna devour the minute Amazon drops it on my doorstep. It was very well organized, we were all given some maps with every mile clearly marked with some indication of the landmark next to it, but it also felt very free and loose, not as if we had been marshaled into a competition or a tourist venture. I liked the vibe!
It was fun to see what pictures people were taking, some were interested only in street signs and graffiti, some others like your truly in architecture, there were some serious foodies who sampled goodies all the way to the sea. All in all it was clean good fun, and I must say we made pretty good time. I started inadvertently at the head of the pack (they ended up at the Britannia pub in Santa Monica 2 hours before everybody, I gather), and then slowly regressed to the middle, until I reached La Brea and the Target store for a pit stop that proved my demise: I was totally unable to move after that. I stopped somewhere for an immemorable lunch, took a couple of buses back home, where I discovered a ping-pong sized blister on the sole of my left foot. Which explained a lot. I felt a bit sorry I didn't manage to go any further and missed the fun of sharing lunch and later dinner with the others, but clearly I was unfit. I went to bed at 6 PM that evening, got up at 6 AM on Sunday and was so sore I couldn't move whatsoever (hence explaining my absence from the MOCA meeting at the Geffen).
So I'm totally ready to do it again next year, but I will train beforehand, and buy adequate hiking/running gear (and that include SOCKS) of the professional kind, not the cheapo stuff my unemployed self got at Target. Meanwhile, you can admire pictures of the walk on the flickr pool
My only regret is, aside from not making it to the Ocean, I was too shy to take pictures of people. Somewhere between Vermont and Western (I think), I saw a beautiful Filipino barber shop that looked out of the 1930s, and later on in Little Armenia a game parlor where retirees were busy socializing. Both were beautiful and I hope someone smarter than me took pictures of them.
If you want to join next year, remember this will be on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I recommend a bit of training before, and good footwear!
(more pics to come)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The meeting organizers, artists Cindy Bernard and Diana Thater, would like to remind everybody this isn't a town hall meeting nor a Q&A to address grievances, neither are you asked to air proposals about the museum's future. It is a rally of support for the museum, so please don't make the meeting morph into a shouting match of confusing ideas, and follow the agenda set by the organizers.
Please note the agenda of the meeting below.
Lastly, FBC! is sorry she cannot attend, but I can hardly move today as a consequence of the Great LA Walk (it was awesome!), so it's physically impossible for me to be there. But I'll welcome anybody who want to report.
Thanks, and go support MOCA!
1. Welcome / Cindy Bernard and Diana Thater
2. Remarks / George Baker
3. A reading of an artist statement of support / Cindy Bernard and Diana Thater
4. Remarks / Representative from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
5. Remarks / Richard Jackson
6. Comments from attendees
7. Walk through of “Index: Conceptualism in California from the Permanent Collection” / George Baker
Friday, November 21, 2008
FBC! is a bit frazzled right now, and grieving and really sad, and the result is I cannot remember everything or keep up with the current MOCA drama. So this post is here first of all to thank everybody who has sent me messages, some of them very touching. I've been stunned and moved to get supportive and sweet emails from total strangers as well as from all friends. It's been very helpful, so my heartfelt gratitude goes to all of you. Thank you so much.
Secondly, I received the invite way too late to post it on YSL, so here's the update: there's an opening at the Glendale College Gallery this Saturday. It's called Endless Summer and is curated by Alex Israel, in conjunction with the California Biennial. If you go, please say hi to Alex for me, and to the Gallery Director Roger Dickes as well.
Now, the corrections: I was saying on the precedent post regarding MOCA that I doubted Eli Broad would play Santa Claus, and I was wrong. He's ready to step in, as long as other people do it as well. If you read the (short) editorial he wrote for the LAT, it's pretty good (I'm happy he mentions the WACK! exhibition among the groundbreaking ones organized at MOCA). I like the bit where he says "This is not a one-philanthropist town". In effect, so far it is, but it stands to reason Broad should be weary of always been called to the rescue, and it's not normal that on a city where so many wealthy people live, so few of them contribute to the arts. Where are the movie stars who show up at MOCA's openings when it's time to take out their wallets?
In any case, please still show up at Sunday's meeting at the Geffen (3 PM) if you can. FBC! absolutely cannot make it, but I'd be happy to post or re-post accounts of the meeting. In passing, I'll be away from the computer for the next 48 hours, so it's better you either join the Facebook group mentioned in the preceding post, or check For Your Art (sign up for their email newsletter). Both are updated frequently.
Meanwhile, goodbye, let's reconnect after Thanksgiving. Thank you all.
The picture of the Roni Horn had been taken at MoMA, not at MOCA. Sorry.
Everyone seems to want for Santa Claus to step in and bailout the museum to avoid a merger with LACMA, which would be great if Santa existed (do you think Eli Broad looks like Santa? Er, no. David Geffen? Even less. The Resnicks maybe?). I hope that whoever would bail out the Museum will ask for fiscal responsibility and better management. And shake the Board of Trustees, and find another director, possibly. Meanwhile, let's do a Barack Obama-style grassroot campaign and ask for someone at the museum to post an account # where people could donate money. Maybe artists could donate artworks to do a live auction. Maybe Los Angeles art dealers could contribute to that general fund. Brady Westwater over at LA Cowboy wants the Getty to step in (why not?) and build a photography museum downtown in conjunction with MOCA (won't happen, methinks). Any ideas are welcome at this point, I guess. Anyway, whatever is done, let's support MOCA!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
So as I said yesterday the MOCA drama is taking front page and continuing. Christopher Knight In Shining Armour is reporting on it, and Tyler Green over at MAN is imagining all sorts of solutions. It's interesting to think about a concerted Getty-LACMA-Broad bailout, but I'm not sure that:
a) it's legally possible for the Getty to fork over some money for that purpose (it may well be, but I don't know anything about it),
b) LACMA sure doesn't have the money for acquiring the collection at its current value, and if it did it would be at such a discount you'd want to weep over the waste that happened
c) Eli Broad? really? it would be a great opportunity for him to actually act as the philanthropist he thinks he is, but hhhhmmm, somehow I don't see it happening, at least not in a way that would satisfy all parties involved.
The idea of MOCA ceding its collection for cash to bail itself out and become an exhibition-only space is lugubrious. If only because, when you want to stage large-scale exhibitions of international renown, you need your collection as currency to obtain loans. I'm sure if LACMA was to get into a shared-collection scheme with MOCA to bail them out, they would oblige in lending out (as collateral, so to speak), but what if it conflicts with their own loan exchanges? Unpractical at best.
In any case, if I were you I'd run over to MOCA this weekend to go see the Kippenberger retrospective, or the Louise Bourgeois one if you're inclined that way (being French, I've seen at least 3 Bourgeois retrospective sin my lifetime, so I'll give it a pass). I sure hope the museum's Dan Graham retrospective (initially scheduled to open at the Geffen, now at Grand Avenue) will still be held in February.
Whatever the fate that awaits MOCA, when everything will be said and done, someone should look at why and how the practice at dipping in the endowment while expanding staff and exploding budget had been allowed, and by whom. It's nice to blame the trustees, but the blame should be shouldered by the museum's administration as well.
Aside from giving MOCA a cautionary glance this weekend, there are lots of other options. First of all tomorrow evening is Groupshow Without Andre Butzer, an artist-curated exhibition filled with FBC! pals. 1711 N Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (enter at back on Baker Street). It starts at 8 PM and is a 2-day affair which I'll be unable to attend as I've got other obligations.
At exactly the same time tomorrow, if you're in Eagle Rock you can go attend LA Lit: Clouds at the beautiful Eagle Rock Center for The Arts. It's a two-day conference on everything literary and experimental in Los Angeles, and includes some performances by the likes of Teresa Carmody.
Saturday evening at Otis is the closing reception for When It's A Photograph, from 6 to 8 PM, with the likes of Marnie Weber (hi Marnie!), Paul Sietsema, James Welling, Doug Aitken, etc.
And Sunday evening, what are you guys doing? Phone banking for MOCA? Yup, that would be nice, but I have a feeling instead you're going to attend the opening of Sundays Gallery, with Michael Rashkow, Eli Langer and Rowan Wood.
Life goes on on Tuesday when, if in Van Nuys, you can attend Doug Harvey's Mouldy Slide Show from 8 to 9PM at Los Angeles Valley College. Click on the link for the exact info.
If you happen to be in London next week instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, I conjure you to go attend the opening of Sphinxx curated by FBC! special pal Alexis Vaillant, at Stuart Shave's Modern Art gallery.
FBC! will attend none of these. Not only because I'm still grieving, but also because I've signed up for this and I'm pretty sure I won't be in any sort of shape to attend and socialize at any art thing this weekend.
Lastly, there won't be any YSL next week, and I'm not sure I'll post anything anyway, but I'll be back for certain on the first week of December.
Pics: Doug Harvey's Mouldy Slide stolen from his blog.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I was not going to post anything today, as I'm still very sad and clearly, I don't care that much about what's going on in the world right now. But I've been reading the news, to try to think about something else, and bam! of course stuff happens in the art world every day.
Like all of you, I had a look at the NYT this morning and frankly, whether Eli Broad wants to litter the Los Angeles cityscape with yet another museum bearing his name is the least of my preoccupations today. Seriously, why the NYT bothers that much about Eli Broad, I wonder? Does the LAT routinely covers the coming and goings of the art-inclined billionaires back East? OK, they don't have any journalists anymore left at the LAT now, so I guess they have to resort to putting up useless blogs about doggie bling and whatnots on their website, but still, I've yet to see a series of articles stalking every art decision made by, say, Steve Cohen. Or, let's be bold, Francois Pinault in Europe.
Instead, the LAT finally, now, today, writes about the open secret everybody has known about in this town for the last several years: MOCA, like Detroit's Big Three, is now running out of cash. It's been operating in the negative for a while, and everybody knows that the museum has had a fundraising problem for a long, long time. There was a bit of a boring article this morning, and now Christopher Knight, our local Crusader For The Arts comes with a column admonishing MOCA's Trustees to get their checkbooks out. Which is nice, and I'm sure everybody is connecting the dots about Broad wanting to create yet another modern/contemporary art space in Los Angeles, as if the cultural landscape needed it. You know: MOCA, LACMA, the Hammer, SMMOA, oh cool, let's create another museum, we don't have enough to see around here.
Now like all art people in LA I'd be devastated if MOCA had to close its doors and go bankrupt. Unlike GM, MOCA cannot go to Congress to ask for a bailout, so it has to find different solutions. I understand the call for more money right now, urgently, and if I were to win the Mega-Millions tomorrow I'd gladly give some. I agree with Knight, the Trustees do have to step up to the plate and save the museum, ands its collections. It would be a shame for the collection to be sold off and dispersed, or merged with another institution that's already out of space. Clearly Los Angeles needs MOCA to stay on, if only to promote itself as a cultural haven for the tourist industry (it's killing me, how the city fails to promote the art and architecture here).
But if I were a Trustee I'd ask for a bit of fiscal responsibility as well. Does MOCA need an outpost at the Pacific Design Center? Can MOCA shave off some of its expenses? Now, having worked in countless big institutions myself, some of which had to go through budget freezes, hiring freezes, salary freezes and salary cuts, I understand how horrible it is for the personnel in place, and how it breeds poor employee morale.
But for the sake of the institution and the sake of the art it is duty-bound to preserve, these are necessary fiscal steps to take. Postponing some big shows, reducing some of the staff, extending the run of some exhibitions, freezing acquisitions, trimming off publications expenses and marketing executives salaries sounds like things that should be done.
Then as a putative Trustee I'd take a hard look at my board, and at my Director, and I would ask the Chairman and the Board to maybe, maybe go look and expand the board with more moneyed and more willing members. I'd ask for recruiting a kick-ass development team with outstanding fundraising abilities and a verifiable track record in the visual arts. Maybe I'd want to second the current director, who everyone likes as the true art person he is, with a charismatic President -cum-money person.
And if, through collective checkbook-opening, belt-tightening operations I'd manage to see MOCA collectively saved, I would try to give it back its shine and prestige by trying to redefine its position in a city that now hosts so many contemporary art spaces. No doubt half of the galleries in LA will close in the next couple of years, and that the art that will emerge from the area's art schoola will be a whole lots smarter, more interesting, more challenging than whatever the market has favored as "Los Angeles Art" for the last 5 or 6 years.
If LACMA is for families, the Hammer for cutting-edge artists, and SMMOA for the most innovative alternative shows (seriously, I love what they do, it's the smartest exhibition program around with OCMA) then maybe MOCA should stayon as the Blue Chip haven its collection determines it to be.
Blue Chip doesn't mean they have to go all Ab-Ex and Pop Art on us, as there's lots of wiggle room for conceptual art, European artists and whatever irreverent contemporary art as long as it's semi-historical. By which I mean, you know how American museums need the Europeans to validate, say, Smithson, Matta-Clark or Thek 15 years before curators dare show them here? Well, screw the 15 years validation period, and bring the European-made retrospectives here as well. MOCA could even pioneer the European model of co-curating between institutions, instead of circulating "take" shows that are ready-made elsewhere. Heck, they could even pay independent curators to organize shows. How do you think European institutions save on staff expenses? Of course it breeds a shitload of dubiously qualified freelance curators on the market, but on the other hand it brings on more diversity in the exhibition programs.
Lastly, I think it would behoove the region at large to have some kind of conference between the County, cities and cultural institutions, about the kind of cultural landscape it needs and can support. If you go to Paris, you have a gazillion institutions that opened over the last 30 years, all competing with each others because at some point, the need has been felt to open a new space to counteract the perceived conservatism of the reigning champion: the Musee D'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris saw the Pompidou Center which saw the Jeu de Paume which saw the Palais de Tokyo which saw Le Plateau open (and for the private side, the Cartier Foundation and La Maison Rouge).
Why the creation of so many art spaces? Because there's not enough turnover in institutions where curators and the rest of the personnel routinely stay in place for 15, 20 years.
You cannot eternally divert or contain resentment of the younger, more alternative, different art lovers who don't find a space in the institution which, to maintain itself and its financial base, has to morph into blue chip flagship sooner or later. Museums, whatever their sources of funding, have to attract enough of a broad audience to legitimate their existence (or they're dubbed elitist) while remaining trendy enough, intellectual enough, scholarly enough, or they risk becoming yet another annex of the Universal City Walk.
So the solution in Paris as in Los Angeles, has been to open new spaces as time went by and arts crowds became more demanding, instead of reforming the institutions from the inside.
The result is a bevy of spaces competing with each other for the same financial pie. It's cool for museum goers to have a large choice of options on the weekend, but maybe it would befit everybody to have a clearer definition of what museum does what, and hire the curators the more apt to accordingly develop the specificities needed at any given museum. A good museum director should be able to pick up curators who not only have the right qualifications and pedigree, but also the ones whose taste doesn't necessarily match the rest of the curatorial team's.
Taste, oopsie, I dropped the T-Bomb. You know, that thing you're not supposed to talk about at acquisition meetings. It's as dirty in the museum world as Janet Jackson's nipples on TV, and as prominently displayed under some transparent disguises (history, scholarship, bras).
It's very simple, really, this taste problem, and by saying so I'm reflecting conversations I had with non-contemporary art visitors, and people who are not your run-of-the-mill-artsy-fartsy-mindfucks. It's a bit boring when you travel and you see the same art everywhere in every museum you visit. Does every museum has to be like Marfa? Does every single space has to look like the Broad? Should every Modern collection reflect MoMA's pioneering spirit?
You know, its like when you go to Germany and every museum has a big Beuys installation, a series of large Warhols from the 1960s, some Gerhard Mertz, a Bruce Nauman here, a few Richter there, let's add a Paik somewhere and a bit of the Becher elsewhere. Granted, these can all be awesome, but after 5 museums you long for a tiny little unknown drawing, something you've never seen anywhere.
Now if museums were to recruit curators with a lot different tastes and a bit more curiosity, and let them experiment a little, maybe they would attract and develop a larger audience and a better fan base. It would justify all the public and private money that's sunk into them for the future generations to know what art looked like in the early 21st century, in all its diversity. It's all very well to blame modernism on Clement Greenberg, but it's a bit silly. It wouldn't have hurt MoMA's curators to travel a bit and look elsewhere.
Likewise, curators could start to think in terms of what they can bring to the city, to the institutions, and to the artists, rather than think in terms of what's best for their career. They could be a whole lot more intelligent in terms of not appropriating ideas from their colleagues and underlings if they knew they could develop their own without risking to spend the next 5 years uniquely relegated at menial tasks (deaccession anyone?). Hell, they could even give proper credit to people who work with them! In any case, if curators were more aware of their own taste and not trying to hide it behind critical theory and whatever scholarly material they've been stuffed with at colleges, they could be less insecure in letting others develop different ideas and show work that they don't like themselves, but that attracts a new audience capable of supporting the museums in times of crisis.
Will we see the artists, art students, writers, collectors, art dealers and curators of Los Angeles rally to support MoCA? I'm not sure about it, but if they do, and if the museum is saved from bankruptcy, I hope they will ask for a serious rethinking of the contemporary art landscape in the region.
Picture lifted from this site.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My beloved grandfather who, along with my grandmother, raised me, as departed this planet this morning. I miss him horribly.
He was radiating kindness to the point that pets were congregating around him wherever he would go visit. My Grandpa was the nicest person ever, someone who not only wasn't bigoted or racist, but who couldn't comprehend why and how other people could be so mean and nasty. I've never seen my Grandpa do anything stupid, ever, nor be angry or aggressive toward anybody or anything. He loved children and spent hours building tree houses and doll houses for us, insisting the Playmobil mansion he built for us out of an old cheese-ripening box would have electricity, for the little creatures to be able to switch on the light if they wanted. He was very poor but set aside a small portion of his paycheck every month to buy us a little bit of candy he would meticulously prepare in tiny, individual packets with our name on it. He was the most affectionate man, and was always beaming each time we would come visit, even if in later years he more often than not failed to recognize who exactly we were. It's true the Frenchybutchic family is very, very large, and he had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so it's not surprising he had trouble with our names, but he knew we were people he loved. He was very sweet to the nursing staff at the hospital, complimenting the women on their nice figures. The very last words he told me, back in June, were "we are so happy when we're all together".
Because he had lost his father early, he had to leave school at the age of 13 to train and be a mechanic, instead of setting up to be the potter he always wanted to be.
He worked in construction for 47 years, climbing in and out of vertiginous cranes in foul weather, driving and repairing bulldozers and other construction engines. If he had been able to attend high school and college he probably would have become an engineer. Instead he worked as much overtime as he could in the worst conditions ever to make sure he could feed his family, and never complained, ever. About anything.
He build and refurbished a lot of the furniture, build a fireplace in the tiny house he was finally able to acquire in his late forties, he laid down bathroom tiles, painted walls and installed wallpaper. He could fix appliances, big or small, and the plumbing. I've always felt like a complete dork because of my lack of manual skills, compared to everything he knew how to do. He taught me arc welding when I was 14, something I mightily enjoyed if only because we would cut the power in the entire neighborhood each time we set to do this (yes, Madame Gain, Madame Maeck, it was us. Sorry!), but aside from that I'm unable to drive a nail on a wall.
My grandpa was also the only person in my family who always encouraged me to do what I'm doing (that is, to be a parasitic artsy-fartsy instead of doing anything useful to society). He had suffered too much from not being able to be the creative person he was. After retirement he finally enjoyed to do the things he liked, and started to make some wood carvings.
We went to visit a museum together twice: once when I was a child to see a show of Japanese woodblock print at the local museum. He felt the occasion was solemn enough for him to wear a suit and a tie, and a hat. I also took him to the Brancusi retrospective at the Pompidou (in 1995 or 1996?), at which we had great fun. It was beautiful to see his sculptor and builder take on the work, instead of the boring respectful attitude most museum visitors felts obliged to adopt.
My Grandpa was also a devoted gardener who delighted in giving us children all the fraises des bois from the garden, and who religiously maintained the sorrel patch that fed us on so many evenings. If I feel like it I'll give you a recipe in his memory.
He loved flowers, jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, playing Scrabble, and despite leaving school so early had an impeccable sense of grammar and spelling. He read the local newspaper everyday from front to back. He also had a slight eccentric streak which tended to manifest itself in a very lousy but always sweet sense of humor, feigning to appear surprised, when stuck in traffic, at everybody else going to the same spot as he was. On other occasions when he would miss a turn and get lost, he never panicked and always pretended to be happy to serendipitously get an opportunity to "admire the landscape".
At some point after he got to retire, he decided to dig a basement-cum-wine-cellar-um-mushroom-bed under the garage floor, which he did. It was great fun to hear him pretend he would dig as far as the William the Conqueror castle's moat a few miles away. He laid bottles of our homemade hard cider in it, a bit of wine, and I'm not sure if he hasn't grown fungi in it, after all. He was the king of the hilariously bad pun, and the most affectionate man. In his entire life, my grandfather hasn't hurt a fly, and I don't think there are that many people about whom the same can be said. I love him. and I feel like dirt I cannot go to his funeral.
So FBC! readers, sorry if I'm not around much, and for my friends: please do not call me or show up at my door unannounced. Thank you.
Friday, November 14, 2008
My dear, beloved readership, you have noticed how often I mention my migraines on FBC!
It's because for the past 7 weeks, I've been having migraines one day out of two. You add some post car-accident back pain to the mix, and you can understand why my posts have this grouchy, cranky tone (unless you've never been in constant pain, in which case I don't hold it against you, but I admonish you to be nicer to people around you who suffer physical ailments). Yesterday was one of those days, so after I was done with reviewing Oranges and Sardines, I couldn't look at the laptop screen anymore, nor read or watch anything, hence the lateness of today's YSL.
Anyway, there are basically two art-related things you gonna do this weekend, and the first one is starting tonight: at the Velaslavasay Panorama, you're going to a vaudeville night where artist extraordinaire Scoli Acosta is performing, along with John Fleck, Todd Gray, Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, and Michael Sakamoto. The program is an offshot of the CCF, and everything is written on the jpeg above. If you like the Museum of Jurassic Technology, you're going to adore the Velaslavasay Panorama, which, in addition to being a mouthful (try saying it very fast: velaslavasay, velaslavasay, velaslavasay! FBC! isn't liable for the mispronunciation, misspelling or other trouble incurred while trying to figure out what a velaslavasay is) is a very cool place to visit, in a beautiful old theater. It's in West Adams, not too far from where I live actually, in a neighborhood that makes your realize how beautiful Los Angeles is.
Even closer to my place, basically 12 minutes form FBC! central, Machine Project is going to take over LACMA tomorrow with "A Field Guide To LACMA", 10 hours of performances and animation non-stop in the venerable institution that's starting to be shaken, not stirred, under the guidance of Michael Govan. There's something called Lasagna Cat, which Pomme is protesting mightily since, as everyone knows, it's sardines cats are into, not lasagna, Garfield notwithstanding (I've put that sentence here uniquely because I like that word, "notwithstanding". Now you know). While you're at LACMA, go have a look at the exhibitions,
You can also read an interview of tomorrow's event organizers here (and plenty of other interesting entries).
If you don't fancy a LACMA takover, you can attend Maeghan Reid's Solo Debut at Chung King Project, or just dash there after a few hours of performances at LACMA. There's also a Sarah Thornton book signing at MOCA at the Pacific Design Center at 3 PM AND a conversation between MoCA curator Bennett Simpson and FOCA Fellowship recipients Martin Kersels, Dorit Cypis and Julio Cesar Morales at exactly the same time but at Grand Avenue (you guys ever heard of a scheduling conflict? Man, I hate to have to disclose it to you. How inconvenient)
Anyway, have fun at all events, and be kind to your neighbor.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Last Saturday FBC! went out with fellow reclusive pal Kurt (hi Kurt!) to the opening of Oranges and Sardines, the last (?) show curated at the Hammer by Gary Garrels, who has left us to go up North in San Francisco. Our loss is their gain.
Luckily Kurt was as animated as I was by the desire to see the show, and really not into schmoozing, so we arrived unfashionably early and left in the same fashion (sorry for anybody who wanted to socialize with us, we were probbaly gone by the time you arrived)
Thus proceeding we got to enjoy looking at the artworks, rather than taking in the scene. And pray tell me, when was the last time you did see a show with beautiful artworks, rather than mindlessly socialize with fellow art people?
The principle of the show was very simple, and like all simple idea was pure genius: ask 6 living artists, all abstract painters, some of them veterans who has seen it all, the others hip and trendy youngish ones, to pick up one or two of their own work, to confront with a selection of other artists who influenced or informed their own work. It’s a little bit like the exhibition that curates itself, except of course Garrels did make a selection of the initial roster, and had to do all the legwork: finding the pieces, getting the loans, installing the work and make everybody happy.
You could argue with his initial selection (as a curator myself, I probably would had chosen an entirely different group of people, but I’m not going to split hairs, OK?) and ask questions about the wisdom of putting together some classic modernist masters alongside some yet-unproven contemporary painters.
Would Mark Grotjahn’s hold a wall next to Mondrian? Next to Ad Reinhardt? FBC! won’t give an answer to that . Instead, FBC! reveled at looking at a bunch of great work you don’t get to see together that often.
The overall feeling after leaving the exhibition was of having witnessed a very blue chip moment, and a testimony to Garrels’ clout as a curator. He had barely stayed 2 years at the Hammer and he’s been able to obtain fabulous loans that would cost another curator 5 or 6 years to negotiate, from the beautiful little Mondrian to FBC!’s absolute favorite in the planet, the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Untitled, (Go-Go Dancing Platform), chosen by Wade Guyton.
After almost 15 years in the artworld, FBC! must confess that sometimes, she doesn’t give a hoot about exhibition concepts, highfalutin takes on deconstructed subjects and political stances about the harsh world we’re living in. Instead I enjoy using my eyes to watch, look at, gaze, gorge on artworks so beautiful and so moving it makes the viewer fall on one’s knees and cry. And artworks like these are aplenty in Oranges and Sardines. Incidentally the title, (taken not from, as you would have it, say a Picasso from the synthetic Cubist period, but from a Frank O‘Hara poem) speaks volume about Garrels’ intent as a curator. Why I’m Not A Painter (the title of the O’Hara poem) could be taken literally as a statement of a curator’s profession: we’re here because we do not create, to help artists present their vision to the world, because we revel in the fragile moment of beauty we encounter through their work.
Anyway, it seems to me Garrels has wanted to offer everybody a good chunk of warm aesthetic pleasure, as well as making people think about the path artworks take to be created. There’s the art history we’re taught in books and at school, and there’s art history in the making, when what influenced an artist is not what the expected wisdom of Academia would like us to accept lock, stock and barrel (take that, Academia!).
Some artists in the show have made impeccable choices, the ones you would expect looking at their work, knowing where they’re coming from and the era when they started working. Christopher Wool’s for example are so conventional in that regard that the result of his selection is quite boring, except that the Dieter Roth pieces he selected strangely look like early Sigmar Polke. There’s a late Picasso that looks totally obvious compared to the Wool artwork, down to the gray palette, and a virtuoso Albert Oehlen that looks like all the Albert Oehlen on the planet. Oehlen is a great painter, and had he been fortunate to live in an imaginary time where no Martin Kippenberger had ever existed, he may have stood a better chance to be genius inventor, instead of being co-opted by the Blue Chipdom of auction houses. I find his work gorgeous, but not epoch-altering, if you catch my drift.
The rest of Wool’s selection is on the same level, good solid work but nothing that makes you weak at the knees.
Charline von Heyl’s room is the other one that is totally expected, and a bit of a failure in the sense that even though the work she does and the ones she selected differ from the rest of the exhibition by the organic “formless” bent they display, they look very weak compared to the rest of the show. I adore Paul Thek as much as the next person, but the one there is rather forgettable, ditto the Franz West and the Immendorff. But I’m glad she selected Carla Accardi.
As much as I didn’t care much for those two rooms, I’m nonetheless happy they existed if only because it shows, at least in my mind it does, that Garrels was respectful of the artists choices and didn’t try to impose his own vision on them. And on a personal level, I’m all for a bit of weak choices and failed artworks in exhibitions, if only to show to the public at large that artists all have their bad days, sometimes make bad artworks (even Leonardo had his fair share of ruined works, you know), and are no superheroes. I also like the fact that sometimes out of bad, failed artworks, another artist is going to find the one thing that will push him or her to create something entirely different that will turn gorgeous. It’s also the way art history is being made, by artists rehabilitating forgotten peers in their own work and making the dogmatic theoreticians re-think their convictions.
This could have been the perfect conclusion for the review, but being a contrarian Frenchy I cannot end this without mentioning what made me enjoy the show so much. The very first room of perfectly chosen works, the one selected by Grotjahn, was a perfect lesson in expected choices, down to the Cadere probably chosen as the one odd sculpture, but which, with the conceptual lineage and mathematical permutation of colors it display, makes perfect sense with the rigorous construction of Grotjahn’s painting, and obviously with the Mondrian as well. There’s everything from Sherrie Levine to John McLaughlin, the weakest works being the Paul Klee and the Clyfford Still, and as far as weak works go those were pretty good. I would kill, metaphorically speaking, for the Ad Reihnardt.
The exhibition would have been a success already with only those works, but this happy viewer was lead to the Wade Guyton-curated pieces right after, the one with the poignant and aforementioned Gonzalez-Torres. I do not know whether the go-go dancer is scheduled to show up, I sincerely do hope so.
I loved Guyton’s choices because they were not the most obvious, at least for me. I would have expected, say, Cady Noland (she’s not there), but not the giant Robert Morris vagina felt sculpture (House of the Vetti II, 1983), nor France’s very own Martin Barré (with Cadere, it’s 2 French artists in the same exhibition) whom I hope curators in this country are going to look at more closely.
With Amy Sillman you then would get to see a much, much better Guston than the one selected by Christopher Wool, a very touching Eva Hesse and a really gorgeous Chamberlain. There were some other interesting picks, such as Juan Mele, a minor artist but whose work makes sense when viewed as the same time as Sillman, and a Howard Hogkins so atrocious it actually becomes good (you have to see it in person to understand what I mean) and that made me wonder what Richard Jackson would think about it.
The very last selection was the one made by my favorite abstract painter, Mary Heilmann, the most eclectic choices of the exhibition. It included Joseph Beuys Felt Suit as well as an early Bruce Nauman (with whom Heilmann shared the same apparent, deceptive simplicity), a David Hockney (makes sense for his use of color) and a very good Francis Bacon, an artist you’d better see in single appearances rather than endure a whole retrospective of. I’m still pondering the Heilmann choices, which are emblematic of the exhibition at large.
Playful, engaging, sometimes puzzling, at other times totally obvious, opening paths of reflections about how art history (or art tout court) is made, exciting and curiosity-rousing, all very good reasons for you to go see the exhibition at the Hammer. You have until February 8, 2009 to do so.
Friday, November 7, 2008
I'm a bit disenfranchised from the current art discourse right now, as I'm busy writing, and freaked out about the job situation, and basking in the Obama election glow as well as bummed by Prop 8.
Consequently I tend to be a little bit absent-minded, and I forget things when I put up the regular YSL announcements. Such as the Nancy Popp-curated political video show at Sea and Space on Sunday, in conjunction with the Audacity of Desperation show. All the info is below. Nancy is a very good friend of mine, and I know she's bummed I cannot make it, so please give her a big hug for me, OK?
(And while I'm at it, I'd like to signal a rally in opposition of Prop. 8 tomorrow Saturday evening at the Sunset Junction in Silverlake (intersection of Sunset and Santa Monica, from 6 PM to 9 PM).)
Sunday November 9, 6-8pm
Violations and Obfuscations
A screening of video works curated by Nancy Popp that address the numerous political disasters, violations and obfuscations of the past eight years. Videos by Paul Chan, Hillary Mushkin, Nabawia El-Soudani, John Davis, Nancy Popp, Serena Wellen, Jessica Lawless, Von Edwards, Martha Rosler and Mark Boswell.
Sunday November 16, 2-5pm
"So now what?" or "HOLY F*%K! NOW WHAT?"
Whether it is Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin, immediately after the elections we're still in debt, looking for work, without universal health care, and occupying Iraq. Adam Overton and Nancy Popp facilitate conversation and activities that will lead to concrete actions to make change in our own communities.